Oil: Looking Ahead...

Roscoe Bartlett. Matt Simmons. T. Boone Pickens. A non-inclusive list of voices from the right warning us of the implications of peak oil.
Now, please add William F. Buckley to that list, in his own inimitable style (hat tip: peakoil.com)

A snippet from the article:
Raymond J. Learsy has written a book memorable in the special sense that nightmares can be memorable, but also useful. If the nightmare is that you died of an overdose of drugs, and the memory of it causes you when in command to draw back from the marginal dose, then the nightmare has served a purpose. Raymond Learsy writes (his book is called "Over a Barrel: Breaking the Middle East Oil Cartel") about what could happen if we continue to go as we are going. The price of gasoline as I write is 60 percent higher than it was a year ago. Such data require extrapolation.
Peak oil is beyond ideology, folks. Sure, we may all have solutions and ideas that come from our own belief systems, but the point is moot if we do nothing at all about it.

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I disagree that this is about Peak Oil. It is about the Saudis gouging us and us responding by limiting our use of oil and punitive action.

"It was 20 years ago that the Saudis and the United States arrived at a deal. The Saudis would set prices so as to protect the U.S. oil industry. And the U.S. would protect the Saudis' independence. We regret that, and should make the Saudis regret it also."

This is the voice that we would expect from the American right wing.

I would be happy to be convinced otherwise. (I am reading this in the early am and have only a chance to skim the article).

I don't see any acknowledgement of peak oil, either. What surprises me is that Buckley advocates dipping into the SPR for the general good. I don't see that happening, though.

What good would dipping into the SPR do? Buckley hasn't thought it out. All the U.S. refineries are running at nameplate; their output has nowhere to go but down (and it will with no maintenance being done). No refineries on our continent are being built, and it would take 7 years even if they were authorized. Unless there is some refinery capacity overseas available and the tankers to ship the product it we are at peak gasoline and diesel right now. I think people will have to start internalizing that this is as much gasoline and diesel supply (with some small variations) as we are ever going to have, and start to plan accordingly.

Well, I see this as a matter of reductive thinking. Right now, the fall back position of the "don't worry be happy" crowd is that there isn't really a problem. This is a temporary glitch caused by a world wide lack of investment because of the low prices in the nineties. Once these high prices are recognized as persistent the resulting spur to investment will lead to a huge increase in supply and we will all live happily ever after. This world view is so totally fucked up, so far from the truth and so damaging to our national will to prepare for what is coming down the road that the alternative view espoused by Buckley and others is actually a step in the right direction.

Buckley et al think that there are no great reserves to be tapped anywhere in the non-OPEC world. Tar sands won't save us. And since an analysis of OPECs production capacity comes down to Saudi Arabia, it is all about our relationship with the kingdom. I am content to leave things there. If the right can go from don't worry be happy, to it all comes down to the Saudis, we have made great progress. Because if Matt Simmons is right, and I believe he is, it is going to become clear in the very near term, just exactly what the situation is Saudi Arabia is. So, it will be a short hop from, "The Saudis are fucking with us, to it looks like we are fucked".

Just before reading this, I checked out the latest polls on pollingreport.com and found this:

"Which ONE of the following would you say deserves the most blame for higher energy prices? . . ."
"Oil companies that want to make too much profit" 30%
"Foreign countries that dominate oil reserves" 22%
"Politicians" 21%
"Environmentalists who want to limit oil exploration" 9%
"People who drive gas-guzzling vehicles" 7%
Other (vol.) 31%
No one is to blame/Not a problem (vol.) 11%
All equally (vol.) 5%
Unsure 2%
Associated Press/AOL poll conducted by Ipsos-Public Affairs. Aug. 9-11, 2005. N=1,000 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3.1.

Perhaps all those who realize that demand has surpassed supply are hidden within the "Other" category. The Right blames sinister OPEC forces; the left blames rapacious oil companies, probably because reality is just too painful to contemplate.

I've been hearing Peak Oil theories for a long, long time.

The bubble was supposed to have burst already, many times.

However, for a variety of reasons, principally I don't like funding despotism, and because it also helps clean up the air. I want to help.


While no doubt Buckley's article is not about "Peak Oil" per se, it is about the consequences of the US not addressing it's dependence upon oil.

That he mentions fuel rationing, cascading bankruptcies, etc. brings those likelihoods into the mainstream discussion of traditional conservatives. If WFB (a true icon of the traditional conservatives) can talk about it, then a whole bunch of commentators at the N.R., WashTimes, etc. can talk about it too...

Don't underestimate the difficulty in turning around public (and and intelligentsia and politico) opinion, especially when great sacrifices will be required. It will take the big names in the various political circles to jump on board before anything can be done in the large scale.

I hate to see Oil Drum become a hate mongering site.

People, hello.
"Our" oil does not come from Suadia Arabia.
It comes from Canada, Mexico. More than 50% of our imports are non-OPEC

See "the facts" at

Or ignore the facts and keep spreading emotional, irrational hatred. Yes, feed the dark forces, Anikin. They are more powerful than rational thought.

(P.S. for those who do not follow the Star Wars movies, Anikin gives into hatred, mistrust and placing his selfish wants over what is good for the galaxy, and this transforms him into the eveil Darth Vader --sorry for the plot spoil)

Doesn't matter where we get "our" oil. As long as oil remains a fungible commodity, it is a world market. The price is determined by how well world demand matches world supply. This is why the Saudis have been so important in the past. They served the role of a Swing producer. Because of their excess production capacity they could always increase production to lower the price when it was in their interest to do so. Although they are trying mightily to maintain the illusion that they still have this capacity, the facts would argue otherwise. Mr. Buckley and his crowd is saying that this is a matter of perfidy. Mr. Simmons is saying that this is a matter of geology. The impact on the world markets and the US economy are indistinguishable.

SW --absolutely right. I emphasized "our" oil as a tongue in cheek statement. It is not "our" oil. In a "free market", the highest bidder gets the booty.

We do believe in "free markets", don't we?

Even Buckley claims he believes in "free markets". Doesn't he?
... Something is not all "right" with Buckley's position here.

The Saudis find themselves in a box of their own making. For years their disproportional political influence in the west was due to their excess production capacity. The kid gloves with which they are treated diplomatically is due to the importance that good relations with them are given. And that importance is related to the fact that they have the power to influence world oil prices by increasing production.

In order to maintain this influence they have hidden the fact that their excess production capacity has been eroding. Without this excess production capacity they are just another producer, one of many. There is no reason for American presidents to kiss their rulers, to walk hand in hand with them, no more reason to kow tow to them than to any other large producer. So, they have hidden the erosion of their excess production capacity.

The problem for them is that now that the rest of the world has peaked and demand is outstripping supply, this lie is catching up with them. If they still have excess production capacity, why don't they use it? It follows that they must be up to no good! So they are caught between a rock and a hard place. If they admit that they no longer have any excess production capacity, they lose their special status as a swing producer. And if they refuse to give up the claim to that status they invite the logical accusation of with holding production from the world markets thus artificially inflating the price of oil.

You've all nailed why I set this piece up the way I did. It's not "peak oil" per se from the geological perspective like what we've gotten used to here at TOD, but it's a different perspective, and candidly, much further than I expected Buckley to go.

Whether it is perfidy or geology (very apt description SW), Buckley's realizing that something is indeed rotten in Denmark.

Also, let's not forget that this "deal" with Saudis has kept oil artificially low in price for a long time...and worse, because oil was so cheap, US big oil has hardly any rationale for maintaining its infrastructure in place to get at the stuff, nor does it have the drilling expertise ready to go to solve those problems, nor will we have it any time soon.

Give Mr Buckley about, oh, six more months. He might still call on the market to solve the problem, sure...but I am betting he'll also have heard about the geological reasons we're screwed by then, if he hasn't already...

I think Bill is a good old guy, but I woudn't expect him to be too nimble.

I was going to say "let his son pick it up" but he already has. See "Florence of Arabia" by Christopher Buckley for an idea of how whacked everything really is. Fiction, often telling the most truth.

Will people be told the real reasons for oil scarcity, if false reasons are more politically useful?

SW: I think that the Saudi's have admitted that they don't have excess capacity right now (or at least not much, and only heavy crude). However, they continually play up that there's investment in the infrastructure to increase capacity. It is that potential increase in capacity when most of the rest of the world isn't willing to claim any increase which is the reason that the US is giving Iran the stink eye instead of SA.

But you're definitely right that they're stuck between a rock and a hard place. If there was a legitimate war on terror, it should be aimed at SA, and if they can't deliver those increases the US administration might suddenly "discover" how many terrorists are from/connected with SA vs. Iraq. Heck, even if they can deliver, if the rest of the world falls far enough behind in supply, the US leaders might get snippy.

We have alwas been at war with Eurasia.

" Will people be told the real reasons for oil scarcity, if false reasons are more politically useful?"

Not yet, but its going to have to happen sooner or later. Watching the corporate owned news media lately it seems they are just chipping away at the edges but not crossing that line line yet. I read a report in Business Weekly( I hope that was the magazine) that stated oil fields were getting "tired" as if a shot of Geritol would perk them up.. they couldn't quite say "peak oil" and what it will mean down the road.

But tell us, do you inform other about the real reason for oil scarcity? I love informing people, complete strangers about peak oil to see their reactions. Tomorrow is another day too..

May we live in interesting times seems to be an understatement..

I try to inform people, but I sense that many of us have developed strong defenses against proselytes. I posted OT messages in newsgroups where they know me, but generated only limited discussion. I went to the Oil Awareness meetup for DC/MD/VA and there were just four of us. My mom and most sibs won't believe anything until Limbaugh and Hannity tell them so, but one brother-in-law seems to be paying more attention. My immediate supervisor, a fellow CMU alum, listens. My coworkers aren't very interested, but are feeling the crunch in gas prices. Even from the local paper and network news, my mother-in-law senses something going wrong. My wife's family are mostly blue-collar people, and they've known that things have been going bad for some time, and are willing to listen.

Last year,for a year, I monitored the http://www.prometheussociety.org/ forum and read their hard copy monthly journal, usually about twenty pages.

The prometheus society requires their members to score in the top 1% of recognized IQ tests. Mensa members requires only in the top 2%. I am smart enough to not tell you what my score is and to name drop a little.

What is this got to do with peak oil ?

In this one year period of several hundred posts and hundreds of written articles, Not One mention did I see of peak oil. Not once.

Over the last five years, I have brought up the peak oil subject with some Mensa members, they have a club in a city about fifty miles away, and none had heard of it and none seem to be interested either.

Conclusion ...... none ...... just disappointment

George --in a strange way that sort of makes sense that members of a high IQ club would be in extreme denial of Peak Oil. The motivation for joining a high IQ club may include a strong denial component. "It" (the bad thing) won't happen to ME because I'm better than the next guy. Learning about PO is a bummer because there is no quick and magical fix. I saw on NBC news just this morning (TODAY show) how people are starting to realize that high oil prices means high electricity prices. Now as it hits them between the pants pockets, they are starting to panic. I do not refer to them as "sheeple". I'm one of them. I'm panicking too. We're going down as a herd. I depend on the farmer lemming to grow the food. I depend on the trucker lemming to bring the food to market. I depend on the crumbling system to keep my family going. My family thinks I'm the one over the edge for even believing that PO "might" be real. (I still pray that the latest price surge is just a speculative one and we still have 5-10 years left --perhaps this is denial-- we are all sheeple.)